[SOUNDSTAGE!] Marc Mickelson is the
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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
November 2001

Life (and Audio)

I've been on exactly five trips this year, and each was related to audio, and my job, in some way. First, there was Las Vegas for the CES and T.H.E. Show. I did take a week of vacation after this, but it was punctuated by time in front of the computer to finish our Las Vegas 2001 show coverage. Then came Montreal and more show coverage. Montreal is not the most temperate place in March, but this trip is always packed with activity, so my mind's rarely on the weather. And I did get to spend a non-working day after the show walking around Old Montreal, which was a treat. I then took a few months off from traveling, which ended abruptly with a trip to Minneapolis to visit Magnepan, Audio Research and Atma-Sphere (as well as the Pavek Museum). A little while later I was off to Salt Lake City to visit Wilson Audio, then to Indianapolis for CEDIA 2001.

My very existence is centered around high-end audio, and I don't think I'd have it any other way. Music and electronics are things I'm intrinsically interested in, and while the travel can be a pain sometimes, it's generally a stimulating part of working for the SoundStage! Network. But I know that audio is a part of me and not just in me.

A while back I found these things called Proxabrushes in a local drugstore. Maybe you've seen them. They're very small wire-stemmed brushes used for brushing between teeth, as your dentist certainly advocates. They affix to the end of a toothbrush-length handle, so they're removable after they've been used. My first thought when I saw them was not of dental hygiene but of tubes. Right away I realized that these brushes would be great for cleaning tube sockets, and sure enough, they are. You have to be careful inserting and removing them from the socket so they don't catch and break something, but you would be shocked to see what they remove. And they're cheap too.

My point here was not to pass along a tweak but rather to convey a frame of mind that's always fixed on audio. Is it a sickness? I know people who would say it is, and I'm not sure they wouldn't be right in some way or another. But for me it's more significant than that, and something that's deeply rooted in everyone's desire to belong and find a clear path or purpose in life. My job is something for which I have tremendous enthusiasm, not just drive that I have to summon every day as I get out of bed, but real in-born passion. Some people have it for trading stocks, others for healing people, but I have it for music and words and the high-end-audio industry. When I was in high school I read each issue of Stereo Review in study hall from cover to cover, and I was the guy everyone came to with questions about which receiver or turntable to buy. And I knew salesmen at the local retail stores who would give the best deals, so I would often connect buyer and seller too. While I went off to graduate school, I hauled my Adcom GFA-555 amp, Polk Audio speakers and Sony CD player (no less than a CDP-101, the very first commercially available CD player) with me. And even though I lived on less than $400 a month then, I always saved a few dollars to buy a new CD every month.

Some people would call this all a sign of dysfunction (some people I've known have done just this), but I can't imagine life without such something that drives me to do my best work. And life is about work -- your job for sure, but also the personal work of relating to friends, family and strangers, and doing good work for humanity too. We all understand this deeper idea of work better after September 11th, but it was there before too.

My point here is not to gain cheers or jeers for the way I live my life, or even to stress the importance of passion in our lives. It's to call attention to what gives us that passion -- gardening, or carpentry, or listening to music on an audio system of our choosing -- and to preserve it for our own good and the good of others. We audiophiles know instinctively to evangelize to the non-believers the importance, and plausibility, of really good musical reproduction, but we also see the angst putting together an audio system can cause in some people. Perhaps the quest is an expression of the passion for some, but I get to see their pained e-mails describing their disappointment that their amplifiers don't sound good with their speakers. In such situations, "It's about the music" is too easy to reply, and it may not even be true for the person who sent the e-mail.

Audio is an avocation for some, a vocation for others, and of no consequence to others still. But passion is not optional for a fulfilling life, and once you find it, or it finds you, you'll know you're there.

...Marc Mickelson

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